In the Wake of Jovenel Moise’s Assassination: Building Solidarity with Haiti’s Popular Movement
by Robert Roth, Haiti Action Committee
Today, in Haiti, the violent rule of Jovenel Moise has come to a violent end. Moise himself had recently said he had “about a million enemies”, and that was undoubtedly true. In his effort to maintain power and exercise full dictatorial control, he not only sparked a powerful grassroots uprising, but angered other factions within Haiti’s elite.
It may take quite a while to fully decipher the internecine battles within ruling circles that led to his demise. In the midst of all the confusion and sensationalism surrounding what happened — Colombian hit squads, a Haitian American doctor and politician arrested as a conspirator, the supposed ignorance of the U.S. Embassy as armored SUVs rolled up on Moise’s house, DEA informants and other U.S. assets involved in the plot, the arrest of Moise’s head of palace security — we need to analyze the fundamental issues at stake in Haiti right now.
As we do this, it is important to identify and reject the racist tropes that have always dominated mainstream media discussion of Haiti and are once again at play. From the time of its revolution against the brutal French slave system, and its historic victory against that system, Haiti has been derided and demonized. In the wake of Moise’s assassination, we have been subjected to the usual racial code words: “dysfunction”, “chaos”, “gang warfare”, “failed state”. All of this hides the guiding hand of the United States and other imperial powers in creating the conditions that have brought about this disastrous period for Haitians. And it studiously ignores the steadfast fight for democracy, education, health care and dignity embodied by Haiti’s unshakeable popular movement.
An op-ed in The Washington Post stated, without a trace of irony: “There’s a hidden story here — one that is rarely discussed — when countries such as Haiti (my emphasis) – so often end up with toxic, destructive leaders.” An editorial in the same newspaper called for a stepped-up United Nations occupation, asking “Does Anyone Have A Better Idea?”, ignoring the fact that the current 17-year UN occupation brought a deadly cholera epidemic, rampant sexual exploitation, and violent repression of the popular movement. The “better idea”, of course, is for Haitians to determine their own destiny, free from the corrupt and dictatorial regimes imposed upon them by foreign forces.
Today’s crisis in Haiti has its roots in the 2004 U.S.-orchestrated coup against the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization. Lavalas means “flash flood” in Creole, signifying the gathering together of people’s power. The Lavalas movement emerged in the struggle to rid Haiti of the U.S.-backed Duvalier dictatorships in the 1980’s, and brought Aristide into office in 1991 and then again in 2001. Under Lavalas administrations, more schools were built than in Haiti’s entire history, funding was dramatically increased for public health and literacy projects, the minimum wage was doubled, and the brutal Haitian Armed Forces was abolished. This was all laid waste when the U.S. organized a coup d’etat against Aristide and then orchestrated a UN occupation to derail this process of progress and change.
Instead of the steps towards inclusion, economic and social reform under Aristide, which he characterized as moving “from misery to poverty with dignity”, for the last 17 years Haitians have had to deal with yet another foreign occupation, this time by the United Nations, and a series of reactionary regimes that have looted the state treasury, increased food insecurity and poverty, and organized terror campaigns against the opposition. The unraveling that Haiti is experiencing today flows directly from this assault on Haiti’s nascent democracy, and on its sovereignty.
Moise was a U.S.-backed tyrant, ruling by decree, handpicked by his mentor and predecessor, Michel Martelly of the right-wing PHTK party, whose own election in 2010 had been orchestrated by then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In 2015, Moise’s sham election as president was denounced as an “electoral coup d’etat” by the grassroots movement in Haiti. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians took to the streets every day for over two months, forcing the election results to be annulled. The follow-up election was just as illegitimate — filled with fraud, voter suppression, and intimidation. Yet the U.S.,UN and the OAS immediately sanctioned its legitimacy, setting the stage for his Duvalier-like dictatorship.
From the day he was selected, Moise’s regime was a testament to corruption and terror. Implicated in a money laundering scheme during Martelly’s presidency, Moise was accused of having taken in $5 million for his role in the scheme. After he assumed office, he simply removed the head of the agency that had done the investigation. Throughout Haiti, Moise was known as the “indicted one”.
Soon after, the Petrocaribe scandal exploded. Venezuela had provided Haiti with oil for years at well below the market rate. With the profits from the oil sales, the Haitian government was supposed to fund schools, hospitals and other social programs. Instead, under both Martelly and Moise, the money disappeared, pocketed by government officials, to the tune of over $3 billion. “Where is the Petrocaribe money?” was the slogan as a full-scale uprising demanded Moise’s resignation.
As mass protests grew and his government teetered, Moise turned to full-scale terror, weaponizing criminal elements and turning them into death squads backed by sectors of his police force (financed and trained by the United States), and using them to attack opposition neighborhoods. The most horrific example was in Lasalin in November 2018, where hundreds were killed, women were gang raped, and people’s homes were burned to the ground, forcing a mass exodus out of the community. Operating with impunity, paramilitary forces tied to Moise’s government, including the so-called G-9 led by ex-police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, unleashed a wave of violence throughout the poorest communities of Port-au-Prince, making life in the country unlivable. Tens of thousands of Haitians have had to flee their homes, becoming internal refugees, in order to escape the death squads. Kidnappings have soared in Port-au-Prince, where even market vendors with little or no resources have been abducted.
This was the regime that the U.S. and the UN occupation supported with unwavering political backing and millions of dollars in aid. In the wake of the assassination, we are seeing more of the same, with hardly any disguise. For example, on July 18th, the U.S. and its colonial Core Group (a consortium composed of the U.S, France, Germany, Canada, Brazil, the OAS, the UN, Germany, Spain and the European Union) announced their support for Ariel Henri, who Moise had designated as Prime Minister two days before his death. Within a day, the interim Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, resigned. The Core Group then urged Henri to form a new government, which undoubtedly will follow in the footsteps of the Moise and Martelly regimes. These moves, and others that are sure to come, are designed to perpetuate elite control of Haiti, with new faces at the top, and to marginalize the role of the mass popular movement
We should be clear, in this regard, on the positions taken over the last months by the Biden Administration. When a new wave of large-scale protests erupted in Haiti this past February, demanding that Moise leave office, particularly since his term had officially expired on February 7th, the Biden State Department and the OAS announced its support for him to stay one more year and to organize a new set of elections in September. Their backing is what allowed Moise to retain power. The Biden Administration continues to insist that new presidential and Parliamentary elections should be held in September, under the aegis of the current Haitian government. This rush to a new set of phony elections is designed to keep elite and foreign control of Haiti. It has been opposed by the popular movement, which is demanding instead a transitional government of public safety (Sali Piblik), constructed by broad sectors of Haitian society, which could then establish a basis for free and fair elections.
In 2019, as popular mobilizations against the Moise regime surged, Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization stated:
It is imperative that we respect the people’s aspirations for progress and for a just society. It is paramount that we stand in solidarity with the people’s protests demanding a new form of state. The nation deserves a new system that is more in harmony with the dreams of our founders, a new vision of the republic rooted in justice, transparency and participation… No cosmetic solution will bring an effective and lasting solution to the crisis in which we are plunged. This system has run its course. It cannot be patched up. It must be changed.
As we build solidarity with Haiti over this next period, as we oppose continued foreign intervention, and as we challenge the U.S. government’s on-going sabotage of Haitian democracy, we should keep those words in mind.
We need to demand the following:
1. Cut off all US aid for the Haitian police once and for all.2. Stop the Biden Administration’s support for the PHTK regime regardless of what new figurehead becomes president.3. End US support for sham elections in Haiti4. Support the right of the Haitian people to form, through their own popular movement, their own transition government free from US interference. No more US/UN military intervention in Haiti.
Robert Roth is an educator and a co-founder of Haiti Action CommitteeQuestions and comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804)— the largest slave revolt since Spartacus’ unsuccessful insurrection against the Romans in 72 BC—was one of the greatest revolutions in world history, and the only successful slave uprising leading to the establishment of a free state governed by non-whites and formerly captive workers. Led by Toussaint Louverture, formerly enslaved himself, the Haitian Revolution struck fear and rage among the slavers, white supremacists, and imperial masters, even as it heartened and inspired freedom-loving peoples everywhere. The counter revolution continues, and we are honored to be joined in a wide-ranging conversation by Walter Riley, a civil rights attorney in Oakland California, winner of the National Lawyers Guild’s Champion of Justice Award, and a founder of Haiti Emergency Relief.
Dear Tucker Carlson,
Hey Tuck, I just got done watching a segment of your show. You know, the one where you suggest that there should be a camera in every classroom in order to root out…let me get this accurate…”civilization ending poison.” https://twitter.com/ndrew_lawrence/status/1412566208763895810
I’m going to zig where you thought most teachers would zag. I welcome your Orwellian cameras in my classroom. Frankly, I don’t know many teachers who would object to having people watch what we do. As a matter of fact, I hate to tell you this Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson, but most of us spent the last year having video cameras in our classrooms.
See, I think you believe that your suggestion that people see what happens in our classrooms will somehow scare teachers. The truth of it is that we have been begging for years to have people, such as yourself, come into our classrooms. I somewhat famously asked Ms. DeVos to visit a public school before she became Secretary of Education (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/an-introduction-from-public-school-teachers-to-betsy_b_5845e2fbe4b0707e4c8171a3). It’s unclear whether she has yet to set foot in an actual public school classroom, but I digress. I sense that you think you’ll see all of us pinko teachers speaking endlessly about Critical Race Theory leading to…and again, let me get this right, “civilization ending poison.” I’ve been in a lot of classrooms (more than you I am willing to bet) and I think you’re going to be disappointed on that front.
What happens in America’s classrooms is teaching and learning. Your “spy cameras” will see teachers and students working together to be better every day. I’ll tell you what I saw on a tour of classrooms not that long ago. I saw a group of kindergartners trying to create bridges over running water with basic classroom supplies in a lesson about collaboration. I saw a high school literature class talking about the character development in The Glass Menagerie. I saw a middle school history class participating in group project where they had to solve problems in a fictional city, with specifics of how they would utilize resources and build public support for their projects. Anyone watching your cameras will see learning…all day every day.
For those who watch your “nanny cams” carefully, they’ll see a lot of other things as well. They will see teachers working with students who have vastly different life experiences. They will see students who are fluent in multiple languages working with teachers to become proficient in yet one more language. They will see students who are hungry get their one solid meal a day in the cafeteria. They will see students itching for more fine arts, industrial technology, or world languages to be offered in their school. In my classroom, if we’re being honest, they’ll probably hear some sketchy intonation from my saxophones, and I promise we’re working on it. But for sure, they will see learning…all day every day.
To be honest, I’m fascinated by the logistics of your proposal. In a world where school districts are struggling to recruit and maintain teachers, who is going to man your “citizen review boards” (setting aside the fact that public school teachers already answer to publicly elected school boards)? For instance, in my school district I sense you would need well over 500 cameras going every day. Who watches those 500 screens 10 hours a day (I want you watching my 7 am jazz band and my after school lessons)? What qualifications would these “experts” need to know what they were watching for? What happens when they catch a teacher teaching…let me get this right…”civilization ending poison?” Who do they report that to? I’m also curious who will pay for all of this incredible technology. Maybe I missed it, but can you point me to a K-12 institution where Critical Race Theory is being taught? Hell, can you define Critical Race Theory for all of us? I’m sure you’ve got answers to all of these questions.
Frankly, I’ve never been able to figure out, instead of dreaming up Orwellian plans to have Big Brother in all of our classrooms, why you don’t round up an army of bright young conservatives to actually step up and teach? Is it because teachers work hard, aren’t paid as much as those with similar educational backgrounds, don’t have support from our elected officials, constantly serve as punching bags for those who don’t understand public education, or is it just because it’s easier to throw rocks at a house than to build one?
Here’s the real deal Tuck, I grew up with my mom making me eat your family’s Salisbury Steaks once every couple of weeks (his family makes Swanson TV dinners) for many years. I struggle to take advice on teaching and learning from a guy who makes a steak that, on its best day, tastes like shoe leather that has been left out in a goat pasture for a few weeks. I get that Critical Race Theory is your latest attempt to scare your easily manipulated demographic, but let’s just admit that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
With all of that being said, count me on the cameras Tucky. Like many teachers, I’m in the early stages of understanding Critical Race Theory (most of us hadn’t heard about it until you and your people started crying about it), but if you find me teaching it, have one of the Tucker Youth watching your surveillance devices let me know. If Critical Race Theory involves talking honestly about American history, I’m probably doing that sometimes. I spent much of the last six years advocating for a way for teaching to become more transparent, and in the dumbest way possible, you are joining that crusade. Let’s make this happen TV Dinner Boy.
Patrick J. Kearney
In 2019, this community helped elect Chesa Boudin for his vision to transform the criminal legal system in San Francisco.
Overall crime has dropped by 30% in San Francisco. But police associations and conservative billionaires have raised over a million dollars in an attempt to undo the will of the people and turn back years of progress towards equality and real justice.
We can’t let them buy unchecked power. But it will take all of us standing with Chesa to stop it!
Every call makes a difference to protect progress. Please help us defeat the racist police unions and conservative billionaires opposing our movement. Sign up to make phone calls to stand with Chesa this weekend!
Phonebank for ChesaThis Saturday!Shifts available 1 – 4pm PDT
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Ever since Chesa took office as District Attorney, he’s been sending shockwaves through the political establishment and raising the bar for real justice. He was the first San Francisco D.A. to file murder charges against a police officer. He co-sponsored a bill that increases accountability for police officers involved in shootings and other misconduct. And he has advocated for protesters and victims of police brutality to help secure real community safety.
Meanwhile, police hoping to avoid accountability and bad actors with millions of dollars have mounted a recall effort that aims to overturn a free and fair election and distort the facts.
Right now police unions and racist groups are spending millions of dollars to turn back years of progress in San Francisco. We can’t let it happen. Sign up now to phone-bank to stop the recall and stand with Chesa!
We can’t let our elections be bought and sold. Lives, families affected by police violence, and the future of police accountability across the country depend on transformative DA’s like Chesa Boudin being in office.
It will take all of us stepping up to preserve justice. Please join us!
Stand with Chesa
On July 6, award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones announced that she has declined an offer of tenure from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). In her first extensive comments since the UNC Board of Trustees voted on her tenure, Ms. Hannah-Jones released the following statement:
“I have loved the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since I was a child watching Tar Heels basketball on television. Two decades ago, in 2001, I learned that not only had I been accepted into the master’s program at the journalism school at UNC, but that I had received a full-tuition Park Fellowship. I cried from joy. I could not believe how lucky I was to get the chance to learn journalism at a place I had so long revered.
“For the next two years, I practically lived in Carroll Hall, spending more time there than anywhere else, even my apartment. I passed hours and hours in that building, studying, working at the Park Library, soaking in the skills of journalism – as well as its ethics and mandates – from the many generous instructors, sitting in the offices of professors – such as Chuck Stone and Harry Amana – who enthralled me with their stories and guided my steps. I met one of my best friends in the master’s program, and she became my daughter’s godmother.
“UNC took a woman with ambition but no practical journalism training and provided the foundation for all that I would become. And through the years, Carolina has been so good to me; inviting me to give the journalism school’s commencement address in 2017; honoring me with the Young Alumni Award that same year and the Distinguished Alumna Award in 2019; and last year, inducting me into the N.C. Media Hall of Fame.
“I have tried to repay the university by mentoring and supporting students through the organization I co-founded – the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting – and by regularly visiting the campus to give talks and meet with students. And so, a few years ago when Dean Susan King first raised the possibility of my coming to teach at the university, I was deeply honored. As a full-time journalist at The New York Times who had no intention of leaving the profession, I told her I could not consider it. But those who know Dean King, know this woman is relentlessly persuasive and never takes her eyes off the long game. Last year, she came to me with the idea of the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Reporting. Our country was undergoing a racial reckoning, and she talked about the moment we are in and how important it was for the upcoming generation of journalists to have the knowledge, training, historical understanding, and depth of reporting to cover the changing country and its challenges. She told me that Carolina was undergoing a racial reckoning of its own, that its leadership was committed to real change, and that she felt I could play an important role in this effort.
“I knew it would be a heavy load to continue my work as an investigative reporter and take on teaching, but I could not dismiss the security and academic freedom of tenure that accompanied the Knight Chair at Carolina and the opportunity to return to serve my alma mater. After giving her offer a lot of thought, the possibility of coming back to Carolina and formalizing the mentoring and teaching I have been doing for years proved too powerful for me to deny. I said yes, and then, like every other person who has been named a Knight Chair at Carolina, I began the rigorous tenure process.
“As part of the months-long tenure process, I had to write a teaching statement, a creative statement and a service statement. I had to teach a class while being observed by faculty. Dean King solicited letters to assess my portfolio of work and professional accomplishments from several academic experts in the field of journalism whom I did not personally know. I presented to the journalism faculty. Following these steps, my tenure was put to vote by all the full professors of the journalism school, who were overwhelmingly in support.
“My tenure package was then submitted to the university’s Promotion and Tenure committee, which also overwhelmingly approved my application for tenure. My tenure package was then to be presented for a vote by the Board of Trustees in November so that I could start teaching at the university in January 2021. The day of the Trustees meeting, we waited for word, but heard nothing. The next day, we learned that my tenure application had been pulled but received no explanation as to why. The same thing happened again in January. Both the university’s Chancellor and its Provost refused to fully explain why my tenure package had failed twice to come to a vote or exactly what transpired. The rest of this story has been well documented in the press.
“Being asked to return to teach at Carolina had felt like a homecoming; it felt like another way to give back to the institution that had given so much to me. And now I was being told that the Board of Trustees would not vote on my tenure and that the only way for me to come teach in the fall would be for me to sign a five-year contract under which I could be considered for tenure at a later, unspecified date. By that time, I had invested months in the process. I had secured an apartment in North Carolina so that I would be ready to teach that January. My editors at The New York Times had already supplied quotes for the press release of the big announcement. I did not want to face the humiliation of letting everyone know that I would be the first Knight Chair at the university to be denied tenure. I did not want to wage a fight with my alma mater or bring to the school and to my future colleagues the political firestorm that has dogged me since The 1619 Project published. So, crushed, I signed the five-year contract in February, and I did not say a word about it publicly.
“But some of those who had lobbied against me were not satisfied to simply ensure I did not receive tenure. When the announcement of my hire as the Knight Chair came out at the end of April, writers from a North Carolina conservative think tank called the James G. Martin Center railed against the university for subverting the board’s tenure denial and hiring me anyway. The think tank had formerly been named after Art Pope, an influential conservative activist who now serves on the UNC Board of Governors, who had helped birth the center. The article questioned how I had been hired without the Board of Trustees approval, and its writer argued that, because the university hired me anyway after the board stymied my tenure, the Board of Governors “should amend system policies to require every faculty hire to be vetted by each school’s board of trustees.” And yet, when that article was published, it had not been made public that I had been hired without the board approving my tenure or my hire. Even faculty at the journalism school were not aware that I had not been considered for tenure and would not learn this until some days later.
“Nine days after the James G. Martin Center published this piece, reporter Joe Killian at N.C. Policy Watch broke the story that, because of political interference and pressure by conservatives, I had been denied consideration for tenure and instead offered a five-year contract. The story about the denial of consideration went viral, and I was dragged into the very thing that I had tried to avoid as the actions of the Board of Trustees became a national scandal.
“These last few weeks have been very dark. To be treated so shabbily by my alma mater, by a university that has given me so much and which I only sought to give back to, has been deeply painful.
“The only bright light has been all of the people who spoke up and fought back against the dangerous attack on academic freedom that sought to punish me for the nature of my work, attacks that Black and marginalized faculty face all across the country.
- Dean Susan King who, in a vacuum of leadership, has exhibited courage, integrity, honesty, and a refusal to be bullied even if it cost her. This is why I wanted to come work under her leadership.
- My colleagues across the country who spoke up with vigor and outrage and to whom I am so very grateful.
- The faculty at the School of Journalism and Media and across campus who spoke truth to power and stood up not just for me, but for the academic integrity of North Carolina’s flagship university.
- The Carolina alumni who sent letters, made calls, and applied public pressure to the Board of Trustees to maintain the integrity of the process and the university.
- The advocates, including members of the state legislature and the local NAACP branches.
- All the universities that reached out to offer me a home, where, as one dean of journalism put it, I would be given “tenure and respect.”
- My amazing legal team: the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Levy Ratner PC and Ferguson, Chambers and Sumpter, P.A., for your guidance and for providing me with the best representation in the country.
- The New York Times, where I will continue to work as a magazine staff writer.
- And most of all, the students at Carolina, who protested and fought to hold the Board of Trustees accountable, even as you were treated with disrespect by the institution charged with serving you.
“I cannot adequately express my gratitude to you all. But I will not be joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a professor.
“I cannot imagine working at and advancing a school named for a man who lobbied against me, who used his wealth to influence the hires and ideology of the journalism school, who ignored my 20 years of journalism experience, all of my credentials, all of my work, because he believed that a project that centered Black Americans equaled the denigration of white Americans. Nor can I work at an institution whose leadership permitted this conduct and has done nothing to disavow it. How could I believe I’d be able to exert academic freedom with the school’s largest donor so willing to disparage me publicly and attempt to pull the strings behind the scenes? Why would I want to teach at a university whose top leadership chose to remain silent, to refuse transparency, to fail to publicly advocate that I be treated like every other Knight Chair before me? Or for a university overseen by a board that would so callously put politics over what is best for the university that we all love? These times demand courage, and those who have held the most power in this situation have exhibited the least of it.
“The Board of Trustees wanted to send a message to me and others like me, and it did. I always tell college students and journalists who are worried that they will face discrimination, who fear that they will be judged not by their work but for who they are or what they choose to write about, that they can only worry about that which is in their own control: their own excellence. I tell them all they can do is work as hard as possible to make themselves undeniable. And yet, we have all seen that you can do everything to make yourself undeniable, and those in power can change the rules and attempt to deny you anyway.
“Since the second grade when I began being bused into white schools, I have been fighting against people who did not think a Black girl like me belonged, people who tried to control what I did, how I spoke, how I looked, the work I produced.
“I have never asked for special treatment. I did not seek it here. All I asked was to be judged by my credentials and treated fairly and equally.
“I do not come from a wealthy and connected family. I did not arrive at Carolina with the understanding that no matter how I performed, I would have a job and prominent position guaranteed. My dad drove a bus and my mom was a probation officer. I got into Carolina on my own merits. I scraped to secure internships at small papers like High Point Enterprise. I got my first job covering schools for the Chapel Hill News. At age 27, when a certain wealthy donor was inheriting the publishing gig from his family paper, I was interning at the News & Observer while working a second job as a mattress salesperson to make ends meet.
“I worked my way up from newspaper to newspaper, and have worked as a journalist for 20 years, traveling from North Carolina to Oregon to New York City before landing at The New York Times. In 2016, I co-founded a journalist organization to help others succeed in the field of investigative reporting. That organization, the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, is housed at the University of North Carolina. I did not have $25 million to give, but I brought what resources I had, not to force my beliefs about journalism on anyone, but to help train eager journalists in the tools of investigative reporting and the skills necessary to cover a deeply divided and unequal multiracial democracy.
“Every Knight Chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since the 1980s has entered that position as a full professor with tenure. And yet, the vote on my tenure had to be forced by weeks of protests, scathing letters of reprimand, the threat of legal action and my refusal to start July 1 without it. Even then, the Board of Trustees had to be led to this vote by its youngest member, Lamar Richards, the student body president who publicly demanded the special meeting. The board then chose to wait to vote until the last possible day at the last possible moment.
“If I had any doubts about whether I should come to UNC or not, watching the proceedings affirmed my decision.
“I watched as student protestors, who for weeks had been expressing their pain and hurt, were forced to wait for more than 20 minutes before they were let into the meeting room. I watched as not a single official in the room bothered to explain that the meeting they had advertised as a special meeting that would be livestreamed would in fact be held in closed session because that is the rule. I watched as their response to the shock, hurt, and outrage of students, who thought they’d come to a public hearing, was to remain silent when any adult in the room could have calmly explained what was happening. I watched as the Chancellor and other officials looked down and did nothing as law enforcement shoved, pushed, and pummeled the students they are supposed to serve. I watched as student protestors were forced outside in the heat to wait for nearly two hours as the board argued over my tenure. And then I watched as one of the trustees came out and falsely claimed that June 28 had been the first time the board had ever had the opportunity to review my application, and that it was the board that had been treated unfairly in this situation.
“To this day, no one has ever explained to me why my vote did not occur in November or January, and no one has requested the additional information that a member of the Board of Trustees claimed he was seeking when they refused to take up my tenure. The university’s leadership continues to be dishonest about what happened and patently refuses to acknowledge the truth, to offer any explanation, to own what they did and what they tried to do. Once again, when leadership had the opportunity to stand up, it did not.
“At some point when you have proven yourself and fought your way into institutions that were not built for you, when you’ve proven you can compete and excel at the highest level, you have to decide that you are done forcing yourself in.
“I fought this battle because I know that all across this country Black faculty, and faculty from other marginalized groups, are having their opportunities stifled, and that if political appointees could successfully stop my tenure, then they would only be emboldened to do it to others who do not have my platform. I had to stand up. And, I won the battle for tenure.
“But I also get to decide what battles I continue to fight. And I have decided that instead of fighting to prove I belong at an institution that until 1955 prohibited Black Americans from attending, I am instead going to work in the legacy of a university not built by the enslaved but for those who once were. For too long, Black Americans have been taught that success is defined by gaining entry to and succeeding in historically white institutions. I have done that, and now I am honored and grateful to join the long legacy of Black Americans who have defined success by working to build up their own.
“I will be taking a position as the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at Howard University, founded in 1867 to serve the formerly enslaved and their descendants. There, I will be creating a new initiative aimed at training aspiring journalists to cover the crisis of our democracy and bolstering journalism programs at historically Black colleges and universities across the country. I have already helped secure $15 million for this effort, called the Center for Journalism and Democracy, with the generous grants from the Ford, Knight, and MacArthur foundations, and have set a goal of raising $25 million. In the storied tradition of the Black press, the Center for Journalism and Democracy will help produce journalists capable of accurately and urgently covering the perilous challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor, and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism.
“Historically Black colleges and universities have long punched above their weight, producing a disproportionate number of Black professionals while working with disproportionately low resources. It is my great honor to help usher to this storied institution these significant resources that will help support the illustrious, hardworking, and innovative faculty at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and the brilliant students it draws. Thank you, President Wayne Frederick and Dean Gracie Lawson-Borders, for always treating me with dignity and respect, and for offering me a home where I can do my work unimpeded.
“Many people, all with the best of intentions, have said that if I walk away from UNC, I will have let those who opposed me win. But I do not want to win someone else’s game. It is not my job to heal this university, to force the reforms necessary to ensure the Board of Trustees reflects the actual population of the school and the state, or to ensure that the university leadership lives up to the promises it made to reckon with its legacy of racism and injustice.
“For too long, powerful people have expected the people they have mistreated and marginalized to sacrifice themselves to make things whole. The burden of working for racial justice is laid on the very people bearing the brunt of the injustice, and not the powerful people who maintain it. I say to you: I refuse.
“In the case of my tenure, the university has, begrudgingly, done the absolute minimum. In a split vote, it did what it was supposed to have done 7 months ago and, in doing so, many believe the university has resolved the issue. It has not.
“If the leaders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sincerely wish to redeem themselves, to live up to the university’s status as the people’s university, I would humbly suggest they do the following, at a minimum:
- Apologize publicly and privately to the student protestors treated so disrespectfully at the Board of Trustees meeting last week, and then dedicate themselves to addressing the demands issued by the Black Student Movement.
- Agree to address the demands issued by the Carolina Black Caucus more than two years ago. To be effective, these efforts must include an actual commitment, with targets, for recruiting, supporting, and retaining Black faculty. While I provided an easy case for many to rally around, had I come, I would have been just the second tenured Black woman professor in the 70-year history of the UNC journalism school, and I would have been its first and only Black woman full professor. Black women account for just 1.9 percent of tenured faculty at UNC, and Black professors together account for just 5 percent in a state that is 22 percent Black and at a university where the student body is 11 percent Black. These issues predated my tenure and cannot be laid at the foot of a politically appointed board, since the tenure hopes of most Black professors are quashed before they even reach the Board of Trustees.
- Advocate to change the role that the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors have over faculty governance and commit to respecting faculty governance and academic freedom at this institution. This requires a change to the way the boards are appointed so that they actually reflect the demographics of the state and the student body, rather than the whims of political power.
- Provide transparency around the tenure debacle that led us here. To date, neither myself, Dean King, my legal counsel, nor the public, have ever been told directly by the university why my tenure was not voted on in November, in January, or at any time before the forced vote in June. Public records requests by both journalists and residents have gone unfulfilled. This is unacceptable for a public university. University officials cannot rebuild trust without first providing truth and transparency in a public accounting of what went wrong and why.
“To Dean King, you are a champion for women journalists, a trailblazer in your own right. We did not ask for this fight, but we were determined to see it to victory. It would have been an honor to work for you.
“To the UNC faculty, especially the consummate professionals in the journalism school, I so looked forward to being your colleague and to learning from you and working with you. You welcomed me from the start. Our students are lucky to learn from you each day, and the university is lucky to have you.
“To the students, I am deeply sorry that I will not have the privilege of teaching you and learning from you. You are brave and full of grace, and I am so very proud of you all. My commitment to you has not wavered, I just will continue to do it as I have in the past, as an alum of the school and not faculty. I hope that you will consider Howard or another HBCU if you ever seek a new educational home, but whatever you do, I know you will continue to fight for justice.
“I will always be a Tar Heel. I remain grateful for all the university has given me and am committed to a lifetime of paying it forward. And I am so excited to now call myself a Bison as well and join the Howard family of which I have long desired to belong.”
On this 4th of July we acknowledge the gap between our nation’s ideals and the racism that pervades our criminal legal system. While we create new polices, expand language access, and end the death penalty in San Francisco, we continue to fight for our ideals.— Chesa Boudin 博徹思 (@chesaboudin) July 4, 2021
EPISODE 37 Poet, Teacher, Prophet—The Rhythms of Revolution
Teachers live each day stretched in tension and suspended in contention: being and becoming, here and elsewhere; one foot planted firmly in the mud and muck of the world as it is, the other foot striding toward a world that could be or should be, but is not yet. Students arrive with questions: Who am I in the world? What are my choices and my chances? What does it mean to be human in the 21st Century? Good teachers dive into the contradictions, and make their classrooms generative sites of authentic engagement. Our guest today is the brilliant teaching artist and San Francisco’s Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin.
What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?
by Frederick Douglass
July 5, 1852
Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens: He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country schoolhouses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.
The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for it is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall, seems to free me from embarrassment.
The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable—and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say. I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence, I will proceed to lay them before you.
This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young. Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.
Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right and proper.
But, your fathers, who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures fully accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of agreement on my part would not be worth much to anybody. It would, certainly, prove nothing, as to what part I might have taken, had I lived during the great controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy. Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England towards the American Colonies. It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.
Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and loyal manner. Their conduct was wholly unexceptionable. This, however, did not answer the purpose. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. Yet they persevered. They were not the men to look back.
As the sheet anchor takes a firmer hold, when the ship is tossed by the storm, so did the cause of your fathers grow stronger, as it breasted the chilling blasts of kingly displeasure. The greatest and best of British statesmen admitted its justice, and the loftiest eloquence of the British Senate came to its support. But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in the Red Sea, the British Government persisted in the exactions complained of.
The madness of this course, we believe, is admitted now, even by England; but we fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present ruler.
Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity. With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression. Just here, the idea of a total separation of the colonies from the crown was born! It was a startling idea, much more so, than we, at this distance of time, regard it. The timid and the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day, were, of course, shocked and alarmed by it.
Such people lived then, had lived before, and will, probably, ever have a place on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change, (no matter how great the good to be attained, or the wrong to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as can be the course of the stars. They hate all changes, but silver, gold and copper change! Of this sort of change they are always strongly in favor.
These people were called Tories in the days of your fathers; and the appellation, probably, conveyed the same idea that is meant by a more modern, though a somewhat less euphonious term, which we often find in our papers, applied to some of our old politicians.
Their opposition to the then dangerous thought was earnest and powerful; but, amid all their terror and affrighted vociferations against it, the alarming and revolutionary idea moved on, and the country with it.
On the 2d of July, 1776, the old Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful idea with all the authority of national sanction. They did so in the form of a resolution; and as we seldom hit upon resolutions, drawn up in our day whose transparency is at all equal to this, it may refresh your minds and help my story if I read it. “Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.”
Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history—the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.
Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.
From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward huge forms of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain broken, and all is lost. Cling to this day—cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.
The coming into being of a nation, in any circumstances, is an interesting event. But, besides general considerations, there were peculiar circumstances which make the advent of this republic an event of special attractiveness.
The whole scene, as I look back to it, was simple, dignified and sublime.
The population of the country, at the time, stood at the insignificant number of three millions. The country was poor in the munitions of war. The population was weak and scattered, and the country a wilderness unsubdued. There were then no means of concert and combination, such as exist now. Neither steam nor lightning had then been reduced to order and discipline. From the Potomac to the Delaware was a journey of many days. Under these, and innumerable other disadvantages, your fathers declared for liberty and independence and triumphed.
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too—great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.
They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.
They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final”; not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.
How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them!
Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.
Of this fundamental work, this day is the anniversary. Our eyes are met with demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm. Banners and pennants wave exultingly on the breeze. The din of business, too, is hushed. Even Mammon seems to have quitted his grasp on this day. The ear-piercing fife and the stirring drum unite their accents with the ascending peal of a thousand church bells. Prayers are made, hymns are sung, and sermons are preached in honor of this day; while the quick martial tramp of a great and multitudinous nation, echoed back by all the hills, valleys and mountains of a vast continent, bespeak the occasion one of thrilling and universal interests nation’s jubilee.
Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your common schools, narrated at your firesides, unfolded from your pulpits, and thundered from your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as household words. They form the staple of your national poetry and eloquence.
I remember, also, that, as a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor. This is esteemed by some as a national trait—perhaps a national weakness. It is a fact, that whatever makes for the wealth or for the reputation of Americans, and can be had cheap! will be found by Americans. I shall not be charged with slandering Americans, if I say I think the American side of any question may be safely left in American hands.
I leave, therefore, the great deeds of your fathers to other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended will be less likely to be disputed than mine!
My business, if I have any here to-day, is with the present. The accepted time with God and his cause is the ever-living now.
“Trust no future, however pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within, and God overhead.”
We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have “Abraham to our father,” when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country to-day? Need I tell you that the Jews are not the only people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchres of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the price of human blood, and the traders in the bodies and souls of men, shout—“We have Washington to our father.” Alas! that it should be so; yet so it is.
“The evil that men do, lives after them,
The good is oft-interred with their bones.”
“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?”
Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?
Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”
But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”
Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery—the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.
But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgement that the slave is a moral, intellectual and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws, in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, there will I argue with you that the slave is a man!
For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and cyphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively, and positively, negatively, and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.
What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.
What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is past.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.
INTERNAL SLAVE TRADE.
Take the American slave-trade, which, we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year, by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states, this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government, as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words, from the high places of the nation, as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade, as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the laws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our DOCTORS OF DIVINITY. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish themselves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass without condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.
Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh-jobbers, armed with pistol, whip and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field, and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-chilling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man, with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the center of your soul! The crack you heard, was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard, was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow the drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me citizens, WHERE, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.
I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave-trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot Street, Fell’s Point, Baltimore, and have watched from the wharves, the slave ships in the Basin, anchored from the shore, with their cargoes of human flesh, waiting for favorable winds to waft them down the Chesapeake. There was, at that time, a grand slave mart kept at the head of Pratt Street, by Austin Woldfolk. His agents were sent into every town and county in Maryland, announcing their arrival, through the papers, and on flaming “hand-bills,” headed CASH FOR NEGROES. These men were generally well dressed men, and very captivating in their manners. Ever ready to drink, to treat, and to gamble. The fate of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and many a child has been snatched from the arms of its mother by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness.
The flesh-mongers gather up their victims by dozens, and drive them, chained, to the general depot at Baltimore. When a sufficient number have been collected here, a ship is chartered, for the purpose of conveying the forlorn crew to Mobile, or to New Orleans. From the slave prison to the ship, they are usually driven in the darkness of night; for since the antislavery agitation, a certain caution is observed.
In the deep still darkness of midnight, I have been often aroused by the dead heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door. The anguish of my boyish heart was intense; and I was often consoled, when speaking to my mistress in the morning, to hear her say that the custom was very wicked; that she hated to hear the rattle of the chains, and the heart-rending cries. I was glad to find one who sympathized with me in my horror.
Fellow-citizens, this murderous traffic is, to-day, in active operation in this boasted republic. In the solitude of my spirit, I see clouds of dust raised on the highways of the South; I see the bleeding footsteps; I hear the doleful wail of fettered humanity, on the way to the slave-markets, where the victims are to be sold like horses, sheep, and swine, knocked off to the highest bidder. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice and rapacity of the buyers and sellers of men. My soul sickens at the sight.
“Is this the land your Fathers loved,
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the earth whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?”
But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented.
By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason & Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women, and children as slaves remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the Star-Spangled Banner and American Christianity. Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime. Your lawmakers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, your lords, nobles, and ecclesiastics, enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and glorious country, and to your God, that you do this accursed thing. Not fewer than forty Americans have, within the past two years, been hunted down and, without a moment’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and children, dependent on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there are neither law, justice, humanity, nor religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes MERCY TO THEM, A CRIME; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American JUDGE GETS TEN DOLLARS FOR EVERY VICTIM HE CONSIGNS to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side, is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world, that, in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice are filled with judges, who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding in the case of a man’s liberty, hear only his accusers!
In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenseless, and in diabolical intent, this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe, having the brass and the baseness to put such a law on the statute-book. If any man in this assembly thinks differently from me in this matter, and feels able to disprove my statements, I will gladly confront him at any suitable time and place he may select.
I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.
At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance, and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness. Did this law concern the “mint, anise and cummin”—abridge the right to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to engage in any of the ceremonies of religion, it would be smitten by the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A general shout would go up from the church, demanding repeal, repeal, instant repeal! And it would go hard with that politician who presumed to solicit the votes of the people without inscribing this motto on his banner. Further, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland would be added to the history of religious liberty, and the stern old Covenanters would be thrown into the shade. A John Knox would be seen at every church door, and heard from every pulpit, and Fillmore would have no more quarter than was shown by Knox, to the beautiful, but treacherous queen Mary of Scotland. The fact that the church of our country, (with fractional exceptions), does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of war against religious liberty, implies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love and good will towards man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy, is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as “scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.”
THE CHURCH RESPONSIBLE.
But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines. who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.
For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke, put together, have done! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action, nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty, and leave the throng of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It is not that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation—a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain ablations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea! when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”
The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in connection with its ability to abolish slavery. The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”
Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday school, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds; and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.
In prosecuting the anti-slavery enterprise, we have been asked to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, could such a thing be done? We are met on the threshold of our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and ministry of the country, in battle arrayed against us; and we are compelled to fight or flee. From what quarter, I beg to know, has proceeded a fire so deadly upon our ranks, during the last two years, as from the Northern pulpit? As the champions of oppressors, the chosen men of American theology have appeared-men, honored for their so-called piety, and their real learning. The LORDS of Buffalo, the SPRINGS of New York, the LATHROPS of Auburn, the COXES and SPENCERS of Brooklyn, the GANNETS and SHARPS of Boston, the DEWEYS of Washington, and other great religious lights of the land, have, in utter denial of the authority of Him, by whom the professed to he called to the ministry, deliberately taught us, against the example or the Hebrews and against the remonstrance of the Apostles, they teach “that we ought to obey man’s law before the law of God.”
My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such men can be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I leave others to penetrate. In speaking of the American church, however, let it be distinctly understood that I mean the great mass of the religious organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men may be found, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher of Brooklyn, Samuel J. May of Syracuse, and my esteemed friend on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say further, that upon these men lies the duty to inspire our ranks with high religious faith and zeal, and to cheer us on in the great mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.
RELIGION IN ENGLAND AND RELIGION IN AMERICA.
One is struck with the difference between the attitude of the American church towards the anti-slavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in England towards a similar movement in that country. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating, and improving the condition of mankind, came forward promptly, bound up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and restored him to his liberty. There, the question of emancipation was a high[ly] religious question. It was demanded, in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, and Burchells and the Knibbs, were alike famous for their piety, and for their philanthropy. The anti-slavery movement there was not an anti-church movement, for the reason that the church took its full share in prosecuting that movement: and the anti-slavery movement in this country will cease to be an anti-church movement, when the church of this country shall assume a favorable, instead or a hostile position towards that movement. Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties), is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria, and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and bodyguards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation—a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against her oppressors; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse! You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a threepenny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.
Fellow-citizens! I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a by word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!
But it is answered in reply to all this, that precisely what I have now denounced is, in fact, guaranteed and sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States; that the right to hold and to hunt slaves is a part of that Constitution framed by the illustrious Fathers of this Republic.
Then, I dare to affirm, notwithstanding all I have said before, your fathers stooped, basely stooped “To palter with us in a double sense: And keep the word of promise to the ear, But break it to the heart.”
And instead of being the honest men I have before declared them to be, they were the veriest imposters that ever practiced on mankind. This is the inevitable conclusion, and from it there is no escape. But I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, at least, so I believe. There is not time now to argue the constitutional question at length—nor have I the ability to discuss it as it ought to be discussed. The subject has been handled with masterly power by Lysander Spooner, Esq., by William Goodell, by Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., and last, though not least, by Gerritt Smith, Esq. These gentlemen have, as I think, fully and clearly vindicated the Constitution from any design to support slavery for an hour.
Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which, the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but, interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anywhere be found in it. What would be thought of an instrument, drawn up, legally drawn up, for the purpose of entitling the city of Rochester to a track of land, in which no mention of land was made? Now, there are certain rules of interpretation, for the proper understanding of all legal instruments. These rules are well established. They are plain, common-sense rules, such as you and I, and all of us, can understand and apply, without having passed years in the study of law. I scout the idea that the question of the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of slavery is not a question for the people. I hold that every American citizen has a right to form an opinion of the constitution, and to propagate that opinion, and to use all honorable means to make his opinion the prevailing one. Without this right, the liberty of an American citizen would be as insecure as that of a Frenchman. Ex-Vice-President Dallas tells us that the constitution is an object to which no American mind can be too attentive, and no American heart too devoted. He further says, the constitution, in its words, is plain and intelligible, and is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens. Senator Berrien tell us that the Constitution is the fundamental law, that which controls all others. The charter of our liberties, which every citizen has a personal interest in understanding thoroughly. The testimony of Senator Breese, Lewis Cass, and many others that might be named, who are everywhere esteemed as sound lawyers, so regard the constitution. I take it, therefore, that it is not presumption in a private citizen to form an opinion of that instrument.
Now, take the constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.
I have detained my audience entirely too long already. At some future period I will gladly avail myself of an opportunity to give this subject a full and fair discussion.
Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work The downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are, distinctly heard on the other. The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen, in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:
God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again
God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end.
And change into a faithful friend
God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But all to manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
THAT HOUR WILL, COME, to each, to all,
And from his prison-house, the thrall
Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive-
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,